CITY BUDGET CHANGES: Decision time, starting today

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(Video of today’s committee meeting)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The City Council’s final budget decisions are getting closer.

In a two-session review today, at 9:30 am and 2 pm, councilmembers will start voting on changes to the budget presented by the mayor last month. As Budget Committee chair, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold has come up with the almost-final list of changes, formally known as the “revised balancing package.” The proposals are all linked from the agenda.

One potential showdown is over the “head tax,” a per-employee tax for businesses with a certain level of revenue. In her newest online update, Herbold calls the proposal “exciting” and says it “would provide sustained, ongoing funding for addressing the homelessness emergency and related items” and that “because it is an ongoing revenue source, the City could bond against this new revenue in the future.”

Opponents include a coalition of 90+ businesses, including a half-dozen-plus from West Seattle, that sent a letter (see it here) to the council on Monday, saying, “We need a compassionate and effective approach to solving homelessness. This proposed tax on jobs is not that, and comes on top of significant increases in business taxes, fees and utility rates that the Council has adopted in the last three years.” (Added 10:22 am: In opening remarks at today’s meeting, Herbold explained changes in the proposal, including a doubling of the threshold for the revenue level at which businesses would be affected, now $10 million.)

The items listed for discussion/votes today include an alternative proposal from Councilmember Bruce Harrell proposing that “the Executive work cooperatively with the Council to develop and participate in a community-led stakeholder engagement process around the establishment of an Employee Hours Tax and/or other revenue source.”

Also likely to be a hot topic, the topic of encampment removals. The “proviso” that has made it onto the list for discussion is Herbold’s alternative, which spells out accountability for determine where the city is removing them and why, not others’ proposals to all but shut them down.

And there’s a proposal from Councilmember Mike O’Brien to set aside $750,000 for at least 13 “safe parking” sites for people living in RVs and other vehicles.

The dozens of other potential budget changes that made this list also include two we’ve mentioned recently that specifically relate to West Seattle, including one related to noise/cruising violations on Alki:

By March 16, 2018, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) is requested to submit a report to the Councilmember representing Council District 1, the Chair of the Gender Equity, Safe Communities, and New Americans Committee, and Council Central Staff Director on SPD’s enforcement policies and practices with respect to vehicle noise and cruising in the Alki neighborhood during the warm-weather months.

And then there’s the item related to the forthcoming Delridge RapidRide conversion. Herbold staffer Newell Aldrich clarified for us that this is intended to add a greater level of transparency earlier in the process.

Again, the full list of what will be discussed in 9:30 am and 2 pm sessions today is here – each item in blue links to the document summarizing the proposal. You can watch live via Seattle Channel, online or channel 21. A final budget vote is planned next Monday; any last-minute thoughts, e-mail councilmembers at

ADDED 2:32 PM: The first budget meeting of the day ran four hours, to within half an hour of the scheduled start of the second one, so the council decided to reconvene tomorrow morning instead. Among the decisions made: The “head tax” was voted down, with Councilmembers Bruce Harrell, Debora Juarez, Lorena González, Rob Johnson, and Sally Bagshaw voting “no.” There was a general commitment to bring back another version soon.

ADDED 6:14 PM: We’ve replaced the no-longer-needed live video window above with the archived video of today’s meeting. As you’ll hear in the final minutes, the rest of the reason they adjourned this afternoon to regroup for tomorrow is because the rejection of the “head tax” meant some subsequent proposals no longer had funding. Tomorrow’s agenda calls for a public-comment session at 9:30 am, then adjournment until 11 am.

21 Replies to "CITY BUDGET CHANGES: Decision time, starting today"

  • fiz November 14, 2017 (9:50 am)

    A huge thanks to the 90+ small and large businesses that sent the letter to the Council!

    Please take the time to read it.  Hopefully, the council members will too, even pay attention.

  • Jort November 14, 2017 (9:59 am)

    I, for one, am shocked — shocked, I tell you — that businesses are willing to put themselves out there and say they don’t support a taxation measure.

    The tax, as proposed, would apply only to the top 10 percent of highest-grossing Seattle businesses. How many of those are exclusively in West Seattle? 

    • WSB November 14, 2017 (10:04 am)

      I don’t know anything about many of the businesses who signed but I do believe that at least some of the West Seattle signers are not at the revenue level that would be affected, so it’s not just a matter of self-interest for some. The 90+ signers are all listed on the letter PDF that is linked above, for anyone interested. – TR

    • CAM November 14, 2017 (10:35 am)

      It’s probably for the same reasons that people are against the estate tax even though it will never apply to them. In some part, people always believe that they are eventually or possibly going to be at that status or income level and proactively vote against things that would negatively impact them when they do end up winning the lottery. Essentially they see people at that income level as having worked and earned everything they have and don’t recognize they likely also won the genetic lottery.  By contrast people don’t ever believe they are going to fail and see people who have failed as having personal responsibility for it rather than recognizing the likely impacts of events outside that person’s control. Unfortunately this means they don’t feel similarly driven to vote for or support policies that would be good for the poor and suffering. 

  • Brewmeister November 14, 2017 (10:52 am)

    It could be that these businesses don’t to support a “tax the problem out of existence” approach to the homeless issue.  They understand that will never work.  They can bring in all the taxes they want but if they continue to blow that money and waste like their proven past rack record supports, the money won’t do any good.  Well maybe for the businesses that support(ed) the candidates in their campaigns.   They may also understand that while “this” proposal would only affect the top 10% of the highest grossing businesses, it’s a slippery slope.  Top 10% now but it would be easy to change and lower that bar each year once the tax is in place.   

    Hopefully this tax will not make it through. 

  • Jason November 14, 2017 (12:05 pm)

     Thank you to the business owners who are willing to put their names on a letter.  They clearly want a better city and already pay a good amount in taxes to support the city.  They also recognize that in their businesses you don’t continue to throw good money at a bad solution, it’s a quick way to not be in business. 
    We have seen a dramatic increase in the money thrown at the homeless issue without implementing measures to change the results.  City leaders hired experts to analyze the situation then basically disregarded the recommendations made by those hired to help.  They have failed to hold accountable organizations that can’t show results for their actions and explain how they spend the money they receive.
    Trying to grab more money to pay for a plan that hasn’t been developed is bad policy.  Let the leaders instead work to get more out of their recently vastly increased budget.  Once they have some results and show a plan for how to make further improvements then come back for the ask (if they even need it).  Otherwise you’re just flushing someone else’s hard earned money down the drain.

  • MM November 14, 2017 (12:48 pm)

    Watching the livestream, wow, what bullies Sawant and Harris-Talley are. No respect for their colleagues on the council, they’re only interested in preaching to the activists in the audience.

    • ltfd November 14, 2017 (8:01 pm)

      Comrade Sawant and the Court Jester are simply panderers, not legislators.

      • Jon November 14, 2017 (9:16 pm)

        Correct. What makes it even more hilarious is that Harris-Talley isn’t even an elected member of the council but acts like she’s The Savior Seattle Needs. At best, she comes off as a Tyler Perry-esque caricature of your modern-day ‘woke’ social justice twitter user.

        It’s enough of a joke that we have an actual radicalized Commie on the City Council; it’s an even bigger joke that O’Brien wants the government to go ahead with preparing for the tax code changes before a new tax code is even finalized.

        Guys, I know that this is a very left-leaning city and blog, but at some point, you’ve got to realize how far things have gone on the crazy scale and turn the ship around.

  • Gene November 14, 2017 (1:23 pm)

    A “ head  tax” to address the homeless crises- just how will that  tax money be spent? What I would like is for Lisa Herbold & council members who  support this to say exactly how they want this $$ used- not just vague” to address the homeless crisis “ statements.

    as for Mike O Briens idea to “ set aside” $ 750,000 for 13 safe parking RV sites— surely the city council brain trust could come up with a better use for three quarters of a million dollars- how about more outreach for homeless students- how about use it towards renting / leasing better family  shelters .

    How about giving it back to day care for low income families?

  • rico November 14, 2017 (1:52 pm)

     There is no point in having a discussion anyways with people of their ilk, who operate on my way or the highway method of governing.

  • Mark November 14, 2017 (2:51 pm)

    5 council members voted the correct way, thank you.  

    Please No More Taxes

    Property tax up significantly

    Car tabs up significantly

    Business tax also has gone up

    Please review existing revenue resources that have risen significantly and budget expenditures more wisely.

  • TJ November 14, 2017 (3:20 pm)

    While the head tax was voted down, Sawant has said they will address it again soon, and O’Brien wants to put the mechanisms in place now in anticipation of ramming it thru. And how about any homeless getting any services supported by city tax money prove they have been a city resident for at least 5 years? Maybe also prove they have been contributed to society here too by having paid city taxes? Seems fair. Why should I support someone from Federal Way, for example, who decides its easier to get by homeless in Seattle, and then benefit from the city coffers? The city has let itself become the bottom of the toilet by allowing things get to this point while neighboring cities have clamped down (Bellevue makes homeless get into programs and refuse to let them camp…hence get out).  

  • sna November 14, 2017 (5:02 pm)

    Just one week ago, we voted overwhelmingly to pass Prop 1 which adds around $40m a year more for homeless and disadvantaged people in King County.  This is on top of the estimated $200m per year spent by Seattle and King County already.  

    A year+ ago, the city paid $100k for a study of our performance on addressing homelessness.  The study found serious issues with our city’s approach and also noted that lack of funding wasn’t the problem.  Money was being spent ineffectively on programs that don’t work.

    I want to see solutions that work and are scalable before throwing even more money at it.  For instance, a large chunk of the money being proposed today was for more emergency shelters, but the data shows our emergency shelters are underutilized already.  


    • Jon November 14, 2017 (9:20 pm)

      You can’t force people to help themselves, turns out.

      What a giant mess. And the “struggling middle class” that Sawant and the other so-called “social justice” council members claim to care about so much are paying for it.

      Imagine what other sort of insane taxes they’ll propose in the coming weeks…

  • zark00 November 15, 2017 (2:53 pm)

    Jon – Sawant is a socialist not a communist – those are different things.  I’m not a fan of hers either, but at least get the words right.

    And what’s Tyler-Perry-Esque mean exactly?  Trying not to jump to conclusions here on your comment.  Maybe I don’t watch enough of his terrible movies.

    I assume you didn’t mean it this way, but I would strongly encourage you not go use the ‘social justice warrior’ moniker as an insult, you are in VERY bad company using that phrase to insult women.

    Homelessness is not a matter of people failing to “help themselves out” – that is an insulting description of  a very real, very complicated, problem.  

  • Mark November 15, 2017 (5:08 pm)


    I agree homelessness is complicated challenge.  Part of the challenge is that many of these people are not willing to pull themselves up and continually make bad choices.


    • zark00 November 16, 2017 (1:55 pm)


      Yes, it’s an extremely tiny part of the problem which is so statistically insignificant that mentioning it just makes you sound like the type of person who thinks “I got mine, everyone else can go to hell” – nice – showing your true colors.  People like you are always, without exception, part of the problem and never part of the solution.

      Wow – just can’t believe you’d pull out the sad and pathetic ‘Pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ garbage – do you also think reverse racism is a thing, women should stay in the kitchen, and guns and god are great?    Assume so.

Sorry, comment time is over.